Summary of the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Disaster

From the good folks at NRDC.
Today’s summary

So there is reason to feel relieved, sort of. The well is plugged and oil is no longer spewing into the Gulf. Now comes the hard part as investigators bear down on the question of what happened and who is responsible. On Sunday, an independent investigator told a National Academy of Engineers hearing that the problem could potentially be traced to cracks that formed in an underwater formation. BP has blamed Halliburton Co. for the faulty cement. Halliburton has denied it. Today, the presidential spill commission hears testimony from top administration honchos about what they saw as they worked to patch the oil spill. Everyone is looking for answers. There are still environmental assessments that have to be made. And the economic health of the region is still a big question mark. But unemployment claims never reached the level many dreaded they would. Claims czar Kenneth Feinberg is speeding up emergency payments to Gulf victims, cutting through the red tape and responding to complaints. The oil spill has been plugged but the effects of the spill may not emerge for months, years or generations.

Quotable Quote
“Over the past few weeks, I have heard from the people of the Gulf, elected officials, and others that payments remain too slow and not generous enough,” claims czar Kenneth Feinberg said. “I am implementing new procedures that will make this program more efficient, more accelerated and more generous.”

See this one, too
“It is clear that you could go further into the analysis … This does not represent a complete penetration into potentially deeper issues,” said Mark Bly, head of safety and operations for BP PLC, explaining the flaws in BP’s investigation into the causes of the oil spill.

National News

AP: Feinberg promises bigger, faster payments
Claims czar Kenneth Feinberg is promising bigger and faster claims payments to victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. From now on, claims will be sorted by industry to allow those reviewing the claims to apply a more specific, uniform set of standards when deciding how much a person or business will be paid.

Read more by Harry Weber

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Anger at Feinberg’s claims process

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Reuters: Claims czar pays out $259 million in claims in 4 weeks
Money sure talks and it certainly has in the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF), created to compensate people and businesses for damages, has paid $259 million in damage claims since the organization took over the process from BP on Aug. 23.

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Wall Street Journal: Did cracks in the cement trigger the oil rig explosion?
Looking for answers to the BP oil explosion, the National Academy of Engineers heard a new theory about what caused the worst environmental disaster in US history. An independent investigator told a hearing on Sunday the problem could potentially be traced to cracks that formed in an underwater formation. BP has blamed Halliburton Co. for developing a faulty cement foam that didn’t stay mixed with nitrogen. Halliburton says tests conducted before the cementing job showed that the foam was stable.

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AP: BP wants own estimate of oil spill
BP PLC is taking no chances on figuring out just how much crude spewed from its well in the Gulf of Mexico. An independent report finds there were 4.4 million barrels, but the company knows the amount of a fine against it will depend on how much oil spilled into the sea. “Now that the relief well has succeeded, we are reviewing data and will develop our own estimate.” No timetable was given for reaching its own conclusion. You can be sure that BP’s own estimate will wind up in yet another court battle.

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Times-Picayune: DOJ lawyers hard at work to bring criminal and civil charges
A team of federal prosecutors from around the country is hunkering down in a building just across from the federal courthouse in New Orleans, as they begin quietly building what is expected to be a complex series of criminal and civil cases stemming from the BP oil spill. It’s being called a cloak-and-dagger operation because no one can get off on the 10th floor where about 60 people are working on criminal and civil cases. Defense lawyers are expecting charges against individuals, and not just a company, that possibly could include involuntary manslaughter.

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AP: BP gives excuses for its own flawed spill investigation
BP’s lead investigator into the Gulf of Mexico oil spill blew his own whistle on the company’s report on the spill. Mark Bly, head of safety and operations for BP PLC, told the National Academy of Engineering committee Sunday, “It doesn’t include the integrated understanding from other companies involved.” He said there was a lack of physical evidence and interviews with employees from other companies limited BP’s study. Conclusions were made without examining the drilling rig, which remains on the sea floor, or the blowout preventer, he said.

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AP: Another panel probes response to the oil spill
T he presidential oil spill commission investigating the oil spill will be probing the response to the spill this week at hearings in Washington. They’ll be looking at the controversial use of chemical dispersants, a moratorium on deep-water drilling and Obama’s plans to make the Gulf’s environment better than it was before the huge spill.

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Wall Street Journal: Does anyone envy BP CEO Bob Dudley?
The Gulf oil spill has been halted. The coast is trying to recover. The question is whether Bob Dudley, BP’s new CEO, has the time and talent to turn around a company responsible for the biggest environmental disaster in US history.

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Houston Chronicle: Gulf oil spill follows a familiar pattern
Experts at a symposium on the Gulf oil spill say it is repeating a pattern from the past – a complacent period of relative industry safety, a disaster, then a flurry of government actions and demands for reform. The plans that come out of the spill are ignored until the next accident, then found to be inadequate and the cycle repeats.

Read more NOAA launches mission to solve BP oil mystery
Everyone still wants to know what happened to all that oil that gushed out of BP’s broken well. And now NOAA is joining the search. The NOAA research ship Pisces set off on a new mission to search for oil that a University of Georgia biologist reported finding on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico earlier this month.

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New York Times: Halliburton replaces BP on Dow’s ‘sustainability’ index
When BP’s Macondo well was spewing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, the oil giant BP was stripped from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. The index, which tracks “sustainability leaders” in industry worldwide, determined that the oil spill was an “extraordinary event” that merited BP’s removal. This week, Dow Jones unveiled its choice for filling the BP vacancy on the sustainability list: Halliburton.

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SBA makes $28 million in disaster loans to Gulf States
If ever there was a time the Gulf coast needed the Small Business Administration, the time is now. To date, the SBA has made 324 loans made across parts of four Gulf of Mexico states for nearly $28 million. The Gulf-wide average per business is $86,000.

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AP: Alabama Gov to create spill commission
Ala. Gov. Bob Riley will sign an executive order Monday creating a commission to examine the effects of a massive oil spill on the state’s coastline and make recommendations about how the region can be protected.

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News Herald: Firm hired to deal with oil spill claims
The Bay County Tourist Development Council is playing hardball in its efforts to get more money from BP. It hired a firm — Nix, Patterson & Roach — that is already making a name for itself in the Gulf oil spill disaster. The firm filed a federal lawsuit against Halliburton and Transocean in Tampa on Thursday on behalf of Panama City Beach and Capt. Anderson’s restaurant in actions separate from the BP claims. The firm also is handling the complicated claims procedures for Panama City, the Bay District School Board, Bay Medical Center, Oaseas Resorts and Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

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Times-Picayune: Salazar makes surprise visit to marshland
The Obama administration is making sure the people of the Gulf coast know they are not forgotten. On Saturday, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar showed up at the Big Branch Marsh National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana to help out volunteers at the St. Tammany Parish site. “I chose this place because we know the threat the Gulf Coast has been under since the oil spill,” Salazar said.

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Sun Herald: Cautious optimism
The spill’s impact continues and we are years away from a final assessment. But based on what we know thus far, the response has turned out to be as beneficial as the spill was tragic, the Sun Herald writes.

Read more Accuracy counts more than speed
Assuming that BP will be eager to fix the damage it caused, we might trust the company to pay the bill as long as it is based on realistic assumptions and measurements about the damage, the Daily Comet writes.

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Politico: is Browner heading out the door?
The collapse of the administration’s comprehensive climate change effort has stoked rumors that Carol Browner, the White House energy czar, will head for the door rather than settle for an incremental, vastly scaled-back energy agenda. Obama aides say the loss of Browner would be a serious blow when Obama is looking to recalibrate his energy agenda and defend against coming attacks. And it’s a double whammy to lose the Cabinet secretary deeply involved in the Gulf coast recovery.

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Video: Relief well driller looks back



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